Why Sleep is Crucial for Workout Results

Woman sleeping in bed
Sufficient sleep improves focus and stamina.

By: Michelle Gilfoyle

Have you been working out hard (at home, most likely)? Perhaps you’ve been lifting weights, squatting, lunging, and smashing out burpees? Good job! However, if you haven’t been getting enough quality sleep, your results may be suffering. Yes, sleep is crucial for muscle building, workout performance, and visible results.

Here’s why.

Your body produces muscle-building hormones during sleep

As you sleep, your body releases human growth hormone (HGH), used to repair and build those muscles you shredded the day before. HGH is also very important for a speedy metabolism and keeping excess fat at bay. If you skimp on sleep, your muscles won’t get enough time and resources to repair and build.

Poor sleep makes your body hold onto fat

Is this frustrating situation familiar? You’ve been working out and eating right. Your legs, back, and upper body muscles are feeling stronger and looking leaner. Great! However, your stomach fat refuses to shift. The common issue among people who experience this? You guessed it, poor sleep.

Not only does poor sleep stop your muscles from recovering properly, but it boosts the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and suppresses the “full” hormone leptin. Plus, poor sleep boosts cortisol levels, and excess cortisol tells the body to stash fat, especially around the middle. The result? Underwhelming muscle gain and stored fat around the stomach. Get more sleep, and eat plenty of lean protein to get the results you’ve worked so hard for.

Sufficient sleep improves your focus and stamina

A workout containing intense cardio and hard strength training requires focus, physical stamina, and some serious mental grit. Trying to complete an intense workout after a terrible sleep will leave you feeling exhausted, and will quite possibly see you quitting halfway.

This is because poor sleep affects your cognitive function, physical strength, and motivation to workout. After a night of insufficient sleep, your heart and lungs’ ability to keep up with the pace suffers, even when your mind is telling you to go harder and faster. Plus, when your muscles haven’t had time to repair and replace all of that lost energy (in the form of glycogen), they simply can’t perform satisfactorily. 

If you’ve got a deadlift weight goal or you want to hit that distance mark on your run, get at least 7 hours of sleep the night before. If you do happen to endure a poor, restless sleep, go easier on your workout. Completing a lower-intensity workout with perfect form is better than trying to muddle your way through a harder workout, risking injury.

Tips for Better Sleep

  • Use a sleep app to track your sleep pattern and remind you when it’s time to lay down your head. Seeing your sleep quality as hard facts will motivate you to improve your zzz’s
  • Stick to a sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
  • Opt for a reliable memory foam mattress which doesn’t cause aches or pains
  • Cut down on caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, especially after midday
  • Turn off the screens two hours before bed, take a warm bath, and learn to rid your mind of racing thoughts (reading, stretching, and meditation are great methods for this)

Good luck! You’ll be surprised at what a good night’s sleep can do when it comes to your training and results.